Frequently Asked Questions

The Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators outlines a set of standards and rules on ethics and conflict of interest that a senator must meet in performing their parliamentary duties and functions.

No, the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators only applies to senators.  Personnel of senators should contact the Senate Administration for guidance on ethics and conflict of interest matters.

The Senate Ethics Officer is responsible for interpreting, applying and administering the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. His role includes advising senators on the application of the Code, administering an annual disclosure process, and conducting inquiries.

The Senate Ethics Officer is an independent officer of the Senate, but is accountable to the Senate through the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators.

No. The Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators is responsible for all matters related to the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, including all forms derived from its administration, subject to the general jurisdiction of the Senate. This Committee may recommend changes to the Code but the Senate itself is the only body that has the authority to amend it.  

The Senate Ethics Officer is bound by confidentiality and may not comment on specific cases or the particular circumstances of an individual senator, including commenting on questions related to a senator’s outside activities and his assets and private interests.  Also, the SEO cannot comment on an inquiry except to inform the public that there is an inquiry if he is of the opinion it is in the public interest to do so.

Senators are subject to an annual review process in which they must disclose to the Senate Ethics Officer their involvement in any activities outside of their parliamentary duties (e.g. outside employment, businesses, positions on boards of for profit and non-profit organizations), the nature and source of income derived from their outside activities, and their assets (e.g. investments, holdings – direct and indirect).  They do this by filing a Confidential Disclosure Statement with the SEO.

The Confidential Disclosure Statement is reviewed and a Public Disclosure Summary is drafted.  It is posted in the online public registry once senators have reviewed and signed it. Senators must also sign a Statement of Compliance, asserting that they have read the Code, and that they are compliant.

Senators are required to file a Confidential Disclosure Statement once a year.   They must also disclose any material changes to the Senate Ethics Officer within 30 days after the change takes place.  They must also disclose throughout the year any sponsored travel and gifts or other benefits to the SEO.  Finally, if a senator has a private interest that might be affected by a matter before the Senate or a committee of the Senate, he must make a declaration of a private interest regarding the general nature of the interest.  These declarations must be made throughout the year as the issues arise. All of these disclosures are then placed in the online public registry.

The parliamentary duties and functions of a senator include partisan matters. Being critical of an elected member of Parliament or of a senator of another party is a partisan matter. However, any partisan activities in which a senator engages must be in compliance with the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.  For example, a senator may not use his or her position as a senator to influence the decision of others to donate to a political campaign.

You may find information that is publicly available about a senator, such as their activities outside of their parliamentary duties and functions (memberships on boards of for profit and non-profit organizations), any associated income, assets, etc. in the online public registry. The online public registry may also include disclosures of sponsored travel, Declarations of Private Interests, and Statements of Material Change.

You may request information that is publicly available about a former senator from the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer if it is within one year of the date on which the senator ceases to be a senator. If it is more than one year since the senator ceases to be a senator, you should contact the Senate Archives at im-gi@sen.parl.gc.ca.

The Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators does not provide a formal complaint mechanism for the general public.  However, the Senate Ethics Officer welcomes any information or concerns from members of the public and he will examine and consider such information.  

An inquiry is an enforcement measure provided by the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators to determine whether a senator has breached the Code.

Under the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, only senators may request that the Senate Ethics Officer conduct an inquiry if they have reasonable grounds to believe that another senator has breached the Code.  The SEO can also self-initiate a preliminary review if he has reasonable grounds to believe a senator has breached the Code.

A Senator has to send a written and signed request to the Senate Ethics Officer.  The senator must identify the alleged non-compliance and the reasonable grounds for the belief that the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators has not been complied with.  He should also identify the provision of the Code that is allegedly not complied with.

The Senate Ethics Officer must first conduct a preliminary review if he has reasonable grounds to believe that a senator has not complied with the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators or if he receives a request from another senator to conduct an inquiry based on reasonable grounds of non-compliance. The purpose of the preliminary review is to determine whether an inquiry is warranted, and the purpose of the inquiry is to determine whether a senator has breached the Code.  At the end of an inquiry, the SEO prepares a report detailing his findings and recommendations.  More details on the inquiry process are available here

Once the Senate Ethics Officer has completed an inquiry report, it is sent to the senator who is the subject of the inquiry and to the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators who tables it in the Senate.  At that time, the inquiry report becomes public. 

The Committee will consider the inquiry report and will recommend to the Senate the appropriate remedial measures or sanctions. Ultimately, it is the Senate that will decide on any remedial measures and sanctions to be imposed on a senator.  The senator who is the subject of the report is afforded an opportunity to be heard during the Committee study, and may speak to any motion related to the report in the Senate.

The timeline of an inquiry depends on several factors, not least of which is the obligation of the Senate Ethics Officer to afford a senator under review the opportunity to be heard and to make representations during all stages of the process under the Code. The availability of witnesses and counsel also factors into the timeline as does the complexity of the issues in the case and any legal issues raised by counsel throughout the process.  More details on the inquiry process are available here.

No, only the Senate can impose a sanction on a senator who has breached the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.

The Senate on the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators is responsible for imposing sanctions on a senator who has been found to have breached the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators by the Senate Ethics Officer.